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Freedom, Fireworks, Hot Dogs and Biotech!

July 3, 2015
Independence Day is a day when America comes together to celebrate family, friends, and our independence from Great Britain in 1776. It definitely would not be a typical 4th of July in my family if I did not have my aunt’s delicious corn on the cob - the American delicacy. Regardless of drought, pests, or cold weather I can always depend on having this 4th of July treat thanks to biotech crops!

Unfortunately, not everyone may not be able to celebrate this year’s 4th of July with sweet corn on the cob. This past month in Iowa, farmers faced bizarrely low temperatures and massive rainfall which lead to a reduction in corn crop yields. Danielle Ferguson, of the Des Moines Register interviewed three farmers from Iowa who recalled this year’s struggle to meet the demand for corn in celebration of the upcoming holiday weekend. One farmer, Ron Deardorff of Deardorff Sweetcorn in Adel, said his corn isn't going to be ready in time for the holiday weekend:
"Unfortunately, there were too many wet, cool days recently. We planted early, but lost that early advantage."

Fortunately, biotech crops help maintain crop yields during season like the recent one in Iowa. In fact, biotech crops are the fastest adopted crop technology in the world growing 100 fold since 1996, according to The International Service for the Acquisition of Ag-biotech crops (ISAAA). ISAAA has quantified several benefits for when farmers use GM seeds:
“On average GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.”

In regards to corn, ISAAA states that the adoption of drought tolerant biotech maize has increased from 50,000 hectares to 275,000 in the United States, and will soon be an international commodity to help solve hunger in Africa.
This is equivalent to a large 5.5-fold year-to-year increase in planted hectares between 2013 and 2014, and reflects strong US farmer acceptance of the first biotech-derived drought-tolerant maize technology to be deployed globally. It is noteworthy that Event MON 87460 was donated by Monsanto to the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), a public-private partnership (PPP) designed to deliver the first biotech drought tolerant maize to selected African countries starting 2017.

Weather is not the only battle crops have to fight, but also insects and pests can impact crop yields. Scientists luckily have isolated Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium which produces a protein that paralyzes the larvae of common plant pests. GE technologies have been able to harness the bacterium’s genomic data to create Bt crops such as corn. This technology, also studied by ISAAA, has shown to reduce insecticide use by 8.2 million pounds since the introduction of the crops, and have economically benefited farmers by increasing profit by not spending on insecticides while killing pests and maintaining yields:
Bt crops are an addition to our arsenal against plant pests.  With an increasing population and decreasing arable land, it is necessary to exploit all options with as little compromise to produce more crops.  When used side by side with proper agricultural practices, Bt insect resistance technology can bring many benefits to crops, farmers, and consumers alike.

So when you chow down on your corn on the cob this July 4th, consider all of the innovative technologies, farmers, and thinkers that guaranteed you the access to eat a safe and delicious meal. Happy Independence Day!